Undermining the State?

Informal Mining and Trajectories of State Formation in Eastern Mindanao, Philippines

Author: Boris Verbrugge


Building on critical perspectives on the state and the informal economy, this article provides an analysis of the "state of the state" on the eastern Mindanao mineral frontier. In the first instance, the author explains that the massive expansion of informal small-scale gold mining, instead of undermining state rule, has given rise to joint institutions of extraction that promote the interests of local politicians and informal miners, amongst others. Relying on the coercive and legitimizing strengths of local state institutions, local politicians have created an environment conducive to the persistence and arguably the further expansion of small-scale gold mining. In the process, they not only beef up their personal authority and the state's fiscal revenues, but also contribute to the consolidation of state rule on the upland frontier. Transcending the local level, this parallel process of small-scale mining expansion and state consolidation, the author argues, can be understood as the result of a long-standing tradition of decentralized state building through local strongmen politicians. Finally, attention is drawn to the expansion of large-scale mining and how it is highly likely to upset the sociopolitical stability built around joint extraction regimes in the informal small-scale mining economy.

Countries: Philippines

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